ReadItSwapIt Works !

I’ve dabbled in other book-swapping sites, but ReadItSwapIt is the one I always come back to.

I like the fact that it is one-to-one swapping, so you never send a book out without getting one back, and that I don’t end up sending out books and accumulating points without finding books I want to redeem them. And I love the fact that different people love different books, and so I can clear out what I consider disposable for literary gold.

My swapping goes in fits and starts though. From time to time I clear out books and have a burst of swapping, and then things settle down until the next time.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been tidying bookcases and I’ve listed a good number of books. A few of them have been requested,  I’ve requested a couple of books, and now I have a fair sized pile of new old books on our dining table.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgarov

This had been my list of “classics I must get to soon” for a while now, so when this one appeared I checked the translation, and when I saw that it was by Pevear and Volokhonsky I pounced.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

I loved the film bit I’ve read mixed reports about the book. Recently though I read something that made me decide to go after the book. I had a couple of rejections, but struck it lucky on my third request.

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

I borrowed this from the library when it was longlisted for the Orange Prize, but there was a long queue so I gave it back rather than rush it. It hasn’t appeared on the library shelves since, so when it was offered as I swap I grabbed it.

Sing Me Who You Are by Elizabeth Berridge

Now this was a wonderful find – an out of print novel by a Persephone author!

A Very Long Engagement by Sebastian Japrisot

We saw the film last weekend, and it inspired me to look for a copy of the book. There was only one copy available, but happily the owner was willing to swap for one of my books.

Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, edited by Neil Astley

I rarely turn down a poetry anthology, and this one I’d enjoyed perusing in the library.

Stratton’s War by Laura Wilson

Now I’ve always enjoyed Laura Wilson’s books, and the library has this one. Trouble is, it’s long and complex and it always seems to be on the shelf when I can’t fit in that sort of books and absent when I can. So it seemed sensible to accept when it was offered as a swap so I can guarantee the book is on hand when the mood strikes.

And that’s not all!

My mother has a newish Danielle Steele paperback. She doesn’t read much, but she feels left out when lots of books come for me, so when it was offered I asked if she would like it.

And I’ve picked up a few books for my non-fiction reading fiance: a couple of military history books, a New Scientist book of questions and answers, and a biography of Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman.

So we have all done pretty well.

I should mention that most of these offered up for swapping again after reading, and that I do take books to charity shops when they are too big to post or when they look as if they aren’t going to get picked up for swaps.

Now tell me, do you use swap sites – and what so you think of them?

What I did with a £20 book budget … and another £5 …

Since I started my career break I have had to rein in my book shopping and so, knowing a resolution to buy no books wouldn’t work, I promised myself that I would only buy exceptional bargains and used out of print books.

The exceptional bargains rule allowed me to buy three of the new Mary Stewart reissues in The Works last week.

My mother used to read a lot of Mary Stewart and I always suspected that I would like her too, but her books seemed to disappear for a very long time. I’m delighted to see these reissues, and very pleased to see that the library has bought copies of a few more of them. I have one on order already.

And the used out of print books rule allowed me to visit Bookmark, the last secondhand bookshop still trading in the town, when I was in Falmouth earlier in the week.

It is a lovely shop with a wonderful stock and well worth a visit if you are ever in that part of Cornwall.

I could have spent a fortune but I set myself a £20 budget. I spent it all, and though I regretfully left some lovely titles behind, I was happy to came home with some real gems.

I read Shadow of a Lady by Holly Roth last week for the letter R in my Crime Fiction alphabet last weekend, and I liked it more than enough to want to track down more of her books. I found two: The Content Assignment and The Sleeper.

Both plots look intriguing, and I am very impressed that one opens in the first person and the other in the third and that they both read beautifully.

I recognised the name Helen McCloy, as I already have one of her novels sitting unread in a bookcase. The title Two-Thirds of a Ghost intrigued me and the synopsis spoke of parlour-games at a publisher’s party. Sold!

John Dickson Carr is one of those authors I’ve been thinking I really must try for quite some time now. I didn’t recognise the title, The Demoniacs, but when I picked the book up I discovered that it was a historical mystery, set in London in 1757. The opening, on a post-chaise travelling from Southwark towards London Bridge, read beautifully and so I had to hang on to this one.

And then, moving from the crime fiction shelves to general fiction, there was Ivy Compton-Burnett. I have a few of her books sitting unread, but not A Family and a Fortune. And this was such a lovely numbered Penguin edition, in grey rather than the more usual orange for general fiction, and again the opening reads so well …

I spotted a row of five books by A A Milne, published by Meuthen & Co in the 1930s. Very pretty little hardback editions with an impression of the author’s signature on the front cover. I already have a couple of books by E H Young in the same format. I left The Red House Mystery behind – it’s a lovely book and I already have a very noce modern edition. I reluctantly left the volumes of journalism and Punch articles, as I know that the library has at least one of them in stock. But Mr Pim Passes By looked so perfect that I couldn’t possibly leave it behind.

Here’s the first paragraph:

“Tell me what a man has for breakfast, and I will tell you what he is like,” as George Marsden used to say, though whether it was his own, or whether he was quoting from that other great thinker, Podbury, I cannot tell you. But the observation would come out periodically; as, for instance, when Dinah had declined a second go of marmalade, or a weaker vessel among his guests had refused to let him help her to one of those nice kidneys …

Had I been restricted to one book, this would have been that one.

And finally there was something that I so rarely find these days: a Virago Modern Classic that I don’t already have in my collection. I hadn’t particularly looked for Hackenfeller’s Ape by Brigid Brophy because I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a book about apes and a scientist, but I remembered Verity writing about it positively and it was there in front of me …

And that was it – a book budget well spent!

I didn’t mean to go book shopping …

… but we happened to be walking past our local second-hand book shop. We hadn’t expected it to be open on a Bank Holiday, but it was. The door was open even though the weather was cold, and so we went it. It would have been rude not to go in!

And there was new stock!

A title by E F Benson that I had never seen before in a lovely edition nearly 100 years old: The Book of Months.

I read the first paragraph and fell in love:

“Thick yellow fog and, in consequence electric light to dress by and breakfast by was the opening day of the year. Never, to anyone who looks at this fact in the right spirit, did a year dawn more characteristically …”

The book came home!

I looked closely at the Penguin shelves. I’ve always loved Penguins, but my interest has been heightened since I met Karyn at A Penguin a Week and perused her lists of the three thousand books published in numbered editions.

There were so many book that I loved on those lists. I noticed many books from my Virago collection. And sprinkling of Persephone authors. And Angela Thirkell!

I suspected that there might be gems among the titles and authors that I didn’t know too.

And so I pulled out a quite a few books, and I think I may have found some gems among them.

Death and The Pleasant Voices by Mary Fitt 

The title attracted me. An interesting synopsis spoke of a young man caught up in strange events at a country house and that appealed. But, strangely, it was the first paragraph of the author biography that hooked me:

“It is, I think, the writer of fiction who is of interest to the public, not the person of whom the writer is a part. Therefore I  do not propose to give details of where i was born, where educated, and so forth. In my character as Author, I was born some years later than Myself, in that part of the world which lies between classical Greece and Elizabethan England.”

That set me to wondering where the reader in me was born. Here in Cornwall I think, some years before Myself.

Where was the reader in you born?

A Well Full of Leaves by Elizabeth Myers

Another lovely title, and the author’s name rang a distant bell. The opening paragraphs, beautifully describing a visit to the park sold another book.

The Ladies’ Road by Pamela Hinkson

Another intriguing title, and the synopsis drew me in:

“Here is a novel firmly planned, a story of England and Ireland during the war, in which beauty is made out of bitterness and agony, in which all the great issues of those tremendous years are seen, as most of us remember them, as they affected the private lives of men and women.”

The Green Lacquer Pavilion by Helen Beauclerk

Another irresistible title. This time I was hooked by the table of contents:


My hopes are high.

Barnham Rectory by Doreen Wallace

I could never resist a book with a vicarage or a rectory in the title, and so this one came home too.

… it’s wonderful what you can find when you’re not really looking!

Another town, a new bookshop … and now I need more bookshelves …

If you have ever visited Cornwall, or if you ever plan on visiting Cornwall, there are a lot of places you might want to see. St Michael’s Mount, The Eden Project, The Minack Theatre, Jamaica Inn, Tintagel, Lanhydrock House, The Lost Gardens of Heligan, The Tate St Ives, The National Seal Sanctuary….

But, unless you have a particular interest in mining history you probably wouldn’t choose to visit Redruth. It’s a grey, inland, impoverished former mining town. But you really, really should go there.

Why? To visit The Redruth Bookshop. I read a while back that it was Cornwall’s largest secondhand bookshop and realised I needed to investigate. Last week I did. It looked unremarkable from outside, but when we went in we discovered that it went, back and back and back, and that it was packed full of wonderful books. I could have brought home a car full, but I was restrained and settled for these:

Recent paperback fiction was at the front of the shop. I picked up Devil by the Sea by Nina Bawden to add to my Virago bookcase, plus the first three novels by Salley Vickers. I knew as soon as I discovered her not so long ago that I would want to read and own all of her work so it was lovely to find three lined up. And older editions with lovely covers. 

And as I went further back in the shop I found the older books. 

Back at the beginning of the year everyone seemed to be reading Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. The library had a copy, but I was in the middle of an ordering ban, and virtuously stuck too it. And maybe virtue was rewarded, because I found a very pretty edition from the 1930s. 

I have an unread copy of Peyton Place tucked away. I remembered Verity writing warmly about it not so long ago, and mentioning that Grace Metalious had written a sequel that was now out of print. So when I spotted a copy of that sequel I had to pick it up. 

And then there was a trio of books by Virago authors that Virago has not seen fit to reissue. The Bridge by Pamela Frankau (in a very pretty 1950s dust jacket), Alone We Embark by Maura Laverty (a wartime economy edition) and Potterism by Rose MacCaulay (a tragi- farcical tract!). All look wonderful. 

I recognised the name Norman Collins, because Penguin reissued his book London Belongs To Me last year. So I picked up Bond Street Story, and the opening paragraphs painted such a wonderful picture of the rush hour in London (I love Cornwall, but sometimes I miss my old London life) that I really couldn’t put it down again. 

Now it probably won’t come as news that I love Margery Sharp‘s writing. So imagine my delight at finding THREE of her books to add to my collection – The Foolish Gentlewoman, Britannia Mews and Cluny Brown. 

Now here is where I was really restrained. There were six books by Monica Dickens that I hadn’t come across before, but I made myself select just one. The Heart of London was the winner and looks absolutely wonderful. 

And finally there was an elderly copy of An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott. It was only 50p, so of course it came home. It missed the photocall because my mother pounced on it. She says that it is lovely – and I hope to get it back one day! 

That’s it! And I shall be looking for an excuse to visit Redruth again very soon…

Recent Arrivals

Recent Arrivals

How’s this for a haul of books? All in one week, all second-hand and I haven’t left the small town where I live!

A Secret Alchemy by Emma Darwin

“A new look at the War of the Roses, through the eyes of people who have been frequently cast in the role of villain. The Woodvilles were a powerful family of nobles who became entwined in the political struggles of the day. Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, was a beautiful widow when she caught the eye of King Edward IV, and became the Queen of England and mother of the two Princes in the Tower, whose fate remains one of the most-debated mysteries in British history. Her brother, Anthony, was an influential figure in his own right, guardian and surrogate father to his nephew Edward V, crusader and courtier, and the first author published on the first printing press in England. Elizabeth and Anthony’s stories are interwoven with the modern-day story of Una Pryor, a bibliographer and historian who is studying the Woodvilles, and who, in returning to England to deal with the remains of the family business, must face her own history of grief and loss.”

I borrowed this from the library and it looked wonderful, but it wasn’t the right time to read it so I took it back again. So when a like-new copy turned up for 50p in the town art gallery sale I had to buy it.

Parents and Children by Ivy Compton-Burnett

“Ranging from nursery to university age, the nine Sullivan children live with their parents, Eleanor and Fullbert, in a huge country house belonging to Fulbert’s parents, Sir Jesse and Lady Regan. Sir Jesse then sends Fulbert, his only son, on a business mission to South America. The news follows of Fulbert’s death and his exeutor, Ridley cranmer, plans impulsive marriage to Eleanor…but is Fulbert really dead?”

A lovely 1970s Penguin edition.

Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim

“Lucy Entwhistle’s beloved father has just died; aged twenty-two she finds herself alone in the world. Leaning against her garden gate, dazed and unhappy, she is disturbed by the sudden appearance of the perspiring Mr. Wemyss. This middle-aged man is also in mourning – for his wife Vera, who has died in mysterious circumstances. Before Lucy can collect herself, Mr. Wemyss has taken charge: of the funeral arrangements, of her kind aunt Dot, but most of all of Lucy herself – body and soul.”

Virago Modern Classic #102. Found in the Oxfam shop and brought home to join the collection that you can see part of in the back of the photograph..

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets

Set in the 1950s, in an England still recovering from the Second World War, THE LOST ART OF KEEPING SECRETS is the enchanting story of Penelope Wallace and her eccentric family at the start of the rock’n’roll era.

“Penelope longs to be grown-up and to fall in love; but various rather inconvenient things keep getting in her way. Like her mother, a stunning but petulant beauty widowed at a tragically early age, her younger brother Inigo, currently incapable of concentrating on anything that isn’t Elvis Presley, a vast but crumblng ancestral home, a severe shortage of cash, and her best friend Charlotte’s sardonic cousin Harry… “

Another book I read from the library, loved and wanted to add to my shelves. For ages all the copies I saw were really tatty, but today a lovely copy turned up in the gallery sale and I swooped.

Bess of Hardwick by Mary S Lovell

“Bess of Hardwick was one of the most remarkable women of the Tudor era. Gently-born in reduced circumstances, she was married at 15 and when she was widowed at 16, she was still a virgin. At 19 she married a man more than twice her age, Sir William Cavendish, a senior auditor in King Henry VIII’s Court of Augmentations. Responsible for seizing church properties for the crown during the Dissolution, Cavendish enriched himself in the process. During the reign of King Edward VI, Cavendish was the Treasurer to the boy king and sisters, and he and Bess moved in the highest levels of society. They had a London home and built Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. After Cavendish’s death her third husband was poisoned by his brother. Bess’ fourth marriage to the patrician George, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, Earl Marshall of England, made Bess one of the most important women at court. Her shrewd business acumen was a byword, and she was said to have ‘a masculine understanding’, in that age when women had little education and few legal rights. The Earl’s death made her arguably the wealthiest, and therefore – next to the Queen – the most powerful woman in the country. “

Another book that I read from the library but wanted to own. Today a perfect copy turned up in a charity shop.

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

“Damian Baxter is very, very rich – and he’s dying. He lives alone in a big house in Surrey, looked after by a chauffeur, butler, cook and housemaid. He has but one concern: who should inherit his fortune… Past Imperfect is the story of a quest. Damian Barker wishes to know if he has a living heir. By the time he married in his late thirties he was sterile (the result of adult mumps), but what about before that unfortunate illness? He was not a virgin. Had he sired a child? A letter from a girlfriend from these times suggests he did. But the letter is anonymous. Damian contacts someone he knew from their days at university. He gives him a list of girls he slept with and sets him a task: find his heir… “

Another from the gallery sale. I read the first page in the queue and was entranced, so home it came.

The Thinking Reed by Rebecca West

“Isabelle is very beautiful, immensely rich and a widow at the age of twenty-six. The year is 1928, she leaves America for Cannes and Paris in search of high society – and love. For though outwardly she has everything women dream of, inside she craves the peace of a lasting marriage. To find the kind of love she needs Isabelle must choose between three men: her violent, fascinating lover, the aristocrat André de Verviers; a reserved plantation owner from the Deep South, Laurence Vernon; the eccentric millionaire Marc Sallafranque…”

Happiness is an original green VMC for 25p in the bargain bin!

My Just Desire: the Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter by Anna Beer

“The name of Elizabethan adventurer Walter Ralegh is familiar to many people, but few know anything about his wife, Bess. Born Elizabeth Throckmorton, her appointment as lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I was considered an important step for her family in an age when power and influence were achieved primarily through one’s connections. At court she met the dashing Ralegh, and they were secretly wed. Ralegh was a royal favorite who had already had a hand in establishing a colony in North America and defeating the Spanish Armada, but this did not prevent his downfall when the queen learned of his marriage. Through years of Ralegh’s imprisonment and further exploits to regain his status, it was left to Bess to keep the family estates together and preserve a legacy for her sons.”

I love the period and this looks to be a fascinating story, and very readable.

Recent Arrivals

I’m not usually well enough organised to write posts about additions to my bookshelves, but when I realised that my most recent purchases fitted a 3 by 3 formation I had to do it. It appealed to the logical side of my brain as well as the bookish side!

Back at the end of May the Book Depository ran a Family & Friends promotion offering a 10% discount on everything. I hadn’t bought any new books for ages and it seemed like a sign!

My first thought was “Persephone”, but I like to buy my books direct from Persephone so I get the bookmarks and to make sure I stay on the mailing list, and so I paused. And then another name came into my head – “Valancourt”.

Valanourt Books is an small press press and it publishes gorgeous new editions of rare books from the 18th and 19th centuries, many of which have been out of print for yours.

There are stacks of Valancout books on my wishlist, but this is the trio I went for:

Valancourt Collage

Clermont by Maria Regina Roche

Clermont is the story of Madeline, a porcelain doll of a Gothic heroine, who lives in seclusion from society with her father, Clermont, whose past is shrouded in mystery. One stormy night, their solitude is interrupted by a benighted traveller, a Countess who turns out to be a friend from Clermont’s past. Madeline goes to live with the Countess to receive her education, but her new idyllic life soon turns into a shocking nightmare. Ruffians attack the gentle Countess, and Madeline is assaulted in a gloomy crypt. And to make matters worse, a sinister stranger appears, threatening to reveal the bloody truth of Clermont’s past unless Madeline marries him. Can she avoid the snares of her wily pursuers, solve the mystery of her father’s past, and win the love of her dear De Sevignie?

One of the “horrid” books mentioned in Northanger Abbey. I’m starting to work my way through them.

Diana Tempest by Mary Cholmondeley

When Mr. Tempest dies, the family fortune and estate pass to his son, John, whom everyone except John himself knows to be illegitimate. Colonel Tempest, his spendthrift son Archie, and his beautiful daughter Diana find themselves cut off, and Colonel Tempest is bitterly resentful. One night, in a drunken stupor, he agrees to a bet, by which he will pay £10,000 if he should ever succeed to the Tempest estate. By the time he realizes that the effect of this wager was to place a bounty on John’s head, it is too late — and attempts begin to be made on John’s life! Meanwhile, Diana, strong and independent, has declared that she will never marry . . . but as she becomes closer with her cousin, her sentiments start to waver. And when John learns of his own illegitimacy, what will happen to his burgeoning relationship with Diana and his claim to the Tempest fortune?

This one was particularly recommended to me – and the fact that Mary Cholmondeley was a Virago author would have ensured that I bought a copy sooner or later.

The Two Emilys by Sophia Lee

In The Two Emilys, masquerade, an earthquake, bigamy, insanity, blackmail, and duels serve the demonic Emily Fitzallen in her drive for revenge on her counterpart and the novel’s heroine. Emily Arden, and the man over whom they do battle, the Marquis of Lenox. Will the good Emily or the evil one prevail? Featuring a wild, improbable plot and action that ranges from Ireland and Scotland to Switzerland and Italy, The Two Emilys remains an unpredictable and thrilling Gothic tale.

I just couldn’t resist!

And then there’a a trio from charity shops:

Falmouth Collage

A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey

At the turn of the century, a time when women had few choices, Bess Steed Garner inherits a legacy – not only of wealth but of determination and desire, making her truly a woman of independent means. From the early 1900s through the 1960s, we accompany Bess as she endures life’s trials and triumphs with unfailing courage and indomitable spirit: the sacrifices love sometimes requires of the heart, the flaws and rewards of marriage, the often-tested bond between mother and child, and the will to defy a society that demands conformity. Told in letters we follow the remarkable life of Bess Steed Garner from her childhood in 1899 to her death in 1977.

This has been on my wishlist for ages and it isn’t rare but I held out for a Virago Modern Classics edition. One appeared on Saturday – and for a mere 50p. I love books of letters (fact or fiction) and this one looks wonderful.

Hellfire and Herring by Christopher Rush

‘The scent of God…the air was impregnated with him and his mint-sweet and moth-ball evangelists. Just as it was with herring, as you might expect in a fossilised fishing-village on Scotland’s repressed east coast where fishing was an act of faith and not yet a computer-science industry designed to suck the last drops of life out of the sea.’ A vivid and moving account of the author’s upbringing in the 1940s and 1950s in the little fishing village of St Monans. Rush returns decades later to rediscover his childhood, and offers a frank account of how it was for him. This evocation of a way of life now vanished demonstrates the power of the word to bring the past timelessly to life. Rush writes of family, village characters, church and school; of folklore and fishing, the eternal power of the sea and the cycles of the seasons. With a poet’s eye he navigates the worlds of the imagination and the unknown, the archetypal problems of fathers and sons and mother love, and the inescapability of childhood influences far on into adult life.

The little caught my eye first. Then I saw it was a seaside childhood memoir and so I took a closer look. The prose looked lovely, and so home it came.

The Athenian Murders by Jose Carlos Somoza

In Athens, a pupil of Plato’s Academy is found dead and his teacher suspects this was no accident. He asks Heracles, the “Decipherer of Enigmas”, to investigate the case and the murky cult that surrounds it. The second plot unfolds in parallel through the footnotes of the translator of the original Greek text and soon leads the reader to suspect the author of the tale has something to hide too. Plot within plot, meaning inside meaning, the story develops in a fascinating manner that will enchant both mystery fans and scholars as reality is shown to be somewhat untrustworthy.

Another long-serving book from my wishlist that finally appeared before me.

And finally, some Persephone Books. What could I do when an email containing details of a special offer for their 10th anniversary landed?

… Also, for this week only there is a special offer of three books for the price of two ie if you buy two books you may have a third free of charge …

I should have resisted – I have a number of unread Persephones on my bookshelves – but I didn’t, and now I have three more. All are dressed in beautiful dove grey covers, and so it is the prints used for the endpapers and bookmarks that you see below. Can fellow devotees identify the books without looking to the words below i wonder …

Persephone Collage

I definitely have three gems: –

Miss Buncle’s Book by D E Stevenson

The storyline of Miss Buncle’s Book (1934) is a simple one: Barbara Buncle, who is unmarried and perhaps in her late 30s, lives in a small village and writes a novel about it in order to try and supplement her meagre income. This is a light-hearted, easy read, one of those books like Mariana, Miss Pettigrew, The Making of a Marchioness and Greenery Street which can be recommended unreservedly to anyone looking for something undemanding, fun and absorbing that is also well-written and intelligent.

Minnie’s Room: The Peacetime Stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

This companion volume to Persephone Book No. 8, “Good Evening, Mrs Craven”, contains ten stories describing aspects of British life in the years after the war. “Minnie’s Room” itself is about a family who are unable to believe that their maid wants to leave them to live in a room of her own. An elderly couple emigrates because of ‘the dragon out to gobble their modest, honourable incomes.’ The sisters in “Beside the Still Waters” grumble because ‘Everything is so terribly difficult nowadays.’Mollie Panter – Downes, said the Spectator, ‘is discomfortingly good at anatomising the crudities and subtleties of snobbery – but she is never unkind.’

The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson-Burnett

Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the daughter of an American millionaire, Rosalie Vanderpoel. He turns out to be a bully, a miser and a philanderer and virtually imprisons his wife in the house. Only when Rosalie’s sister Bettina is grown up does it occur to her and her father that some sort of rescue expedition should take place. And the beautiful, kind and dynamic Bettina leaves for Europe to try and find out why Rosalie has, inexplicably, chosen to lose touch with her family. In the process she engages in a psychological war with Sir Nigel; meets and falls in love with another Englishman; and starts to use the Vanderpoel money to modernize ‘Stornham Court’.

Now all I have to do is catch up with my library books and my challenge books so I can start on these!

Buried Treasure

Book Pile

To look at this pile of books you might think they were nothing special, but you would be wrong.

I love a shiny new book as much as anyone, but I love the sense of history attached to an old book too. And I hate the idea of a book being ditched just because it’s a little old and scruffy.

There are often wonderful books to be found in the 50p boxes outside my local used bookshop, so I rushed over when I saw that they had been topped up. Here are the books that I had to bring home:

Lady Into Fox & A Man In The Zoo by David Garnett

I was very taken with the idea of Lady Into Fox when I read about it at Stuck In a Book. It was in library stock and so I ordered it up, but when I read it I knew that I had to have a copy of my own to keep. This is a lovely illustrated  paperback edition from 1940 and it came with a number of bonuses – a postcard from the period, a newspaper cutting about the author and, best of all, A Man In The Zoo, another short work that I haven’t read.

Four Gardens by Margery Sharp

I read The Eye of Love by Margery Sharp last year and fell in love with her writing. Sadly though it is the only one of her works in print, and so I have been ordering others up from the libary’s fiction reserve and picking them up where I can. This book comes from a series I have never seen before – published by in Leipzig in English  as Volume 5233 of The Tauchnitz Edition of British and American Authors. I wonder what other books were in that series and just how this little volume found its way to Cornwall.

The Dangerous Islands by Ann Bridge

Ann Bridge was a diplomatic wife and drew on her travels and experiences to publish twenty six books between 1932 and 1968. Her books were both praised and popular but none are in print now. I have Peking Picnic and Illyrian Spring in my Virago Modern Classics collection and, though I haven’t read them yet, I love the synopses and the pages I have scanned.  I am particularly intrigued by this book because  it was published in the year of my birth (1964) and because thanks are given to the clerk of the council of the Isles of Scilly – we can see the boats and helicopters that travel to the Scillies from our house.

Star-Brace, The End of the House of Alard, Sussex Gorse and Three Against The World by Sheila Kaye-Smith

Isn’t that a wonderful set of titles? Sheila Kaye-Smith is another woman author who was praised and lauded in the 190os but who is no longer in print. Most of her work is set in her native Sussex, and it seems that she was compared with Thomas Hardy and Mary Webb – two of my favourite autors. That plus the synopses from another two unread Virago Modern Classics on my shelves (Joanna Godden and Susan Spray) were more than enough to ensure that I would scoop up any of her books that I came across.

Truth is Not Sober by Winifred Holtby

I have read two of Winifred Holtby’s novels, The Crowded Street and South Riding,and they were both quite wonderful. Some of the short stories in this collection are in Remember, Remember!, Virago’s collection of her shrter works – but not all of them! And I am charmed that this copy comes from the Timothy Whites Circulating Library of Fareham and dates back to 1935.

A wonderful haul for just £4 !